Premier League fantasy football scout: 3 key player picks for Gameweek 2
The Premier League’s return brought with it a hailstorm of goals – 31 of them – in the opening set of fixtures. Fantasy managers rejoiced and despaired as highly owned key men Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane nailed and failed respectively.
There are another two gameweeks before the international break bites, so with that in mind here are a few prize picks for the remainder of August.
Defender: Ahmed Hegazy, West Brom (£4.6m 9.3% ownership)
West Brom boss Tony Pulis has said that he expects Gareth McAuley to miss the upcoming international fixtures for Northern Ireland in September, which is a blow for club and country. Jonny Evans also missed the Baggies’ first game through injury and is the surprising subject of interest from Manchester City – but it’s not surprising that Pulis doesn’t appear particularly fazed.
Ahmed Hegazy started his first game for West Brom against Bournemouth last weekend, kept a clean sheet and scored the winner for good measure (15 points). The 6ft 5in Egyptian is on loan from Al Ahly with the option to buy, and it certainly appears as though he’s got all the attributes to become a Pulis golden boy.
It’s well-documented that West Brom score more goals from set-pieces than their Premier League counterparts. At £4.6m, Hegazy is still cheaper than either Craig Dawson or Allan Nyom (both £5.0m), and the Baggies’ next two fixtures against Burnley and Stoke offer further clean sheet potential as they look to build on a winning start. Almost 200,000 fantasy managers have brought Hegazy in this week.
Alternative pick: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool (£4.5m, 2.7% ownership)
The Liverpool youngster got his first senior goal in midweek with a brilliant free-kick against Hoffenheim in the Reds’ Champions League qualifier. Alexander-Arnold is a huge talent well regarded by Jurgen Klopp, and his set-pieces now add even more weight. He’ll give Nathaniel Clyne a run for his money upon the ex-Southampton man’s return from injury.
Midfielder: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Manchester United (£8.1m, 10.3% ownership)
Manchester United raced out of the traps last weekend in their Sunday clash with West Ham. Summer signing Lukaku snatched the headlines with a brace in the 4-0 victory (13 points), and his own fantasy ownership now exceeds 50%.
Club-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan is well worth considering now too, though, and has the potential to build on a sub-par first season. Last term we saw glimpses of the quality that tempted Jose Mourinho into paying over £35m for the ex-Borussia Dortmund player – particularly in the Europa League – and on Sunday it was more of the same.
In his second season, the creative Armenian can show his class more consistently. Plenty has been made of Nemanja Matic arriving to free up Paul Pogba, but Mkhitaryan stepped up with two assists from an impressive six key passes against West Ham.
The 28-year-old is a proven creative threat, and now has Lukaku and Marcus Rashford as willing targets for his service. Such combos of attacking styles should allow Mkhitaryan to rack up assists this season.
Alternative pick: Oriol Romeu, Southampton (£4.5m, 4.9% ownership)
Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond often take the attacking plaudits in Southampton’s midfield, but it was Romeu who chipped in with six key passes in the 0-0 home draw against Swansea. The Spaniard should really only be seen as an enabler in your 15-man squad, but his low price frees up funds for elsewhere.
Forward: Jamie Vardy, Leicester (£8.6m 11.2% ownership)
Since the departure of Claudio Ranieri in February, only Harry Kane (12) has scored more goals than Jamie Vardy (10) in the Premier League. Vardy managed two from as many shots against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last week, looking fresh and fired up for the season ahead.
The England striker has started 2017/18 with the same determined streak that helped Leicester achieve the seemingly impossible in 2015/16 – and next up for the Foxes is a home clash with Premier League newcomers Brighton.
The Seagulls have bought a number of players in following promotion, and it’s feasible that it could take a few matches until they’re bedded in. Brighton started the season with a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City despite a spirited defensive performance, though in reality it could have been more had the front two of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus capitalised on earlier chances.
Brighton could struggle defensively this season, and Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare has hinted that he could be ready to partner Vardy with new signing Kelechi Iheanacho in a front two. With home advantage for the first time this season, the England striker will be looking to add to his opening-day double and take advantage of Riyad Mahrez still being at the club.
Alternative pick: Steve Mounie, Huddersfield (£6.0m, 3.1% ownership)
We picked out Mounie as a potential bargain striker for 2017/18, and so far Huddersfield’s new hitman is proving us right. He netted twice against Crystal Palace in the Terriers’ 3-0 win at Selhurst Park last weekend, and his value hasn’t changed since then so snap him up for £6.0m while you can.
Huddersfield have an attractive run of fixtures coming up that includes Newcastle (h), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Leicester (h) and Burnley (a).